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Path to Becoming a Dermatologist

By Piper Chan

Dermatology is the area of medicine that focuses on the treatment of the skin, hair, nails, and specific cosmetic problems, and the field has become more known throughout the world as the industry produces new technology for its treatments. Some daily tasks dermatologists perform include the examination of patients, treatment planning, execution of those treatments, and follow-up appointments. Like many other healthcare workers, those who study dermatology go through tenacious preparations for their future careers. Fortunately, once graduated, the range of careers they can choose from is incredibly wide. They can specialize in fields such as pediatric care, cosmetic business, and skin cancer [1]. Not to mention, the average salary for dermatologists in the US is $229,467 per year. The salary range in the US is from $39,000 to $584,000 per year. [2]. Overall, dermatologists can find satisfaction in their job stability and salary while helping others find relief from not having their skin-related problems anymore. To reach this rewarding point in the dermatology field, there are some basic steps that need to be taken.

Usually, career decisions that take place in high school; therefore, many students take classes that apply to the job they want in the future. If interested in pursuing dermatology, take as many math and science classes that are offered. This includes AP courses in biology, chemistry, calculus, and physics [1]. Dermatologists go through many college courses that require a thorough foundation of math and science. In addition, colleges will see that the applicant is devoted and highly interested in the subjects necessary to pursue a career as a dermatologist. Extracurriculars are also a great way to show interest in the field of dermatology. If there is not a medical-related club at school, consider starting one to show leadership. Organizations outside of school are also an option and usually offer volunteering hours as well. For example, Red Cross chapters are set up all over the world and are always looking for applicants and interns. It is encouraged that a 3.5+ GPA is maintained. Once one is graduated and committed to a college, the next step is to choose a major.

There is no pre-med major; however, a large number of colleges have a pre-med track. These pre-med tracks are given to students by a pre-med advisor who will ensure the student follows a class course that ticks off requirements for medical schools. The course plans typically include classes in biology, physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, math, and physics [3]. Any major is alright to choose at the end of the day, but it is preferred that pre-med students take science-based majors, as it becomes beneficial in preparation for medical school and exams. Maintaining a high GPA is still important in college for a higher chance of acceptance. Medical schools do not only look into one's grades but also the score the applicant got on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The MCAT is a rigorous, 7.5-hour exam that covers a wide range of topics, including chemistry, biology, biochemistry, physics, psychology, behaviour, critical analysis, and reasoning skills.

The classes in medical school involve two years of class and lab work and another two years of clinical practice. Clinical practice is when a medical student works under the supervision of licensed dermatologists or other licensed physicians in a clinical setting. During this period, there will be many exams and tests, including the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 [1]. Medical school is a very important and demanding step in the process of becoming a medical professional, so take that into account when considering whether to work as a dermatologist or another healthcare career. After medical school comes a more hands-on part of the training, which is interning and residency. Before applying for a job, experience and extra guidance are crucial. Therefore, having 2-3 years of residency is normal in the medical application process. Internships and residencies must be sought out at clinics and hospitals and completed under the supervision of a licensed doctor.

The final step to being a dermatologist is becoming licensed and board-certified. Typically, the student will need to have completed their residency before taking and passing the third part of the USMLE [3]. As for board certification, many dermatologists decide to become board-certified by the American Board of Dermatology [1]. This involves taking another exam that tests additional skills that were gained through residency. Once an individual becomes board-certified and licensed, specialization is the first step that needs to be taken in the new chapter of the dermatology career. Some examples of specializations to be considered are cosmetic dermatology, dermatopathology, pediatric dermatology, and surgical dermatology.

In conclusion, it is undeniable that dermatology and becoming a dermatologist is a vigorous yet advantageous road. Dropping out of a certain major is not a bad choice; however, it is wise to truly think over what career path is suitable before deciding on anything. The cons of becoming a dermatologist are that in total, 12 years of studying and training will be spent to become a fully licensed doctor. It will be a lengthy and strict period of time where one will have to sacrifice a significant amount of time. Going to college and medical school is not cheap either. There has been a 2.5% increase in the average medical student’s debt of $196,520 in the class of 2018 [4]. Money, time, and the amount of effort that is willing to be put into dermatology are all factors that need to be taken into consideration. Nonetheless, if willing to follow through the path of dermatology, the pros of the career are far more substantial and will undoubtedly support one in the long run.


  1. Berlinsky-Schine, Laura. “How to Become a Dermatologist: Steps to Take from High School.” CollegeVine, December 7, 2020.

  1. Indeed Editorial Team. “How to Become a Dermatologist.” Indeed, February 22, 2021.

  2. Colucci, Andrew. MD. “How to Become a Dermatologist.” Innerbody Research, December 13, 2018.

Lane, Ryan. “What Is the Average Medical School Debt?” NerdWallet, May 6, 2021.

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